Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

February 28, 2007

New Year's Resolution

Did you have a New Year's Resolution? Do I dare admit that I have same one like I have had every year? Yes, I have the typical one, lose weight, eat better, and exercise. Well, lucky me, I like exercise, or at least I like being completing a workout, but I have to do a workout before I can complete a workout. I don't know how I can eat better, as I eat very good whole foods as often as I can. It is the losing weight portion that is always tough to adhere to. So, for me, I always make the same resolution, ramp up, and take a break by the 21st of January. Then, when Chinese New Year's rolls around, I re-start my resolution. It is kind of like a "re-do". How about you?

Did you make a New Year's Resolution?
Yes, and I am sticking to it.
Yes, I had a slow start, but I restarted at Mardi Gras and Chinese New Year.
Maybe, but it fell to the wayside.
No way.
I don't know. free polls

If you cannot see my poll, try this Take my poll!

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February 25, 2007

Chinese New Year's Lion Dance

I was so happy to see the 1st Nashville Lion Dance Team come to the Chinese New Year's Banquet. Over the years, I have grown fonder and fonder about the Chinese Lion Dance Teams. When I was a kid, with plenty of auditory clarity, the Lion Dance Team drums were too loud for me, and I used to cry because it hurt my ears. A few too many rock concerts in my teens and 20s, a few too many tapes and CDs played at volume 10 in my car, I am now as hard of hearing as most middled aged people, and I am not as distressed over the drumming. I have grown to love the whole sha-bang of the acrobatic lions and the drumming. The Nashville Lion Dance Team brought their drums, two adult lions and a little baby lion! It is always good luck to have the lions come and make way for lots of good luck for the new year.
Here is the baby lion! Isn't she cute? How did the little girl get into the lion's mouth?

Here are two lions, and the lion tamer.

It is customary to offer the lions a red package, also known as a lucky package. The red lucky packages have money and or candy to symolize luck, health, and prosperity for the new year. In this picture, someone is holding out a red package for the lion.

Here the lion eats the red package and dances for the person in hopes of good luck for the year.

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February 22, 2007

Chinese New Year's Banquet

There is a woman in Nashville, Jen-Jen Lin who is the driving force for bringing Chinese Arts to Nashville, and to make it accessible to all who live in Nashville, not just Chinese people. The organization is The Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville. She has presented at least one Chinese dance (modern, ballet, acrobatic etc) every year since I have know her, she has brought the Tai Pei Dance Theatre to the Nashville as part of a nationwide tour, she brought the first Chinese Lion Dance team to Nashville, she participates in the 1st Chinese school in Nashville, and my favorite part about her efforts is that she has brought an authentic Chinese New Year Dinner to Nashville for a 4th year in a row. Thank you Jen-Jen for provide to me, enough Chinese cultural experiences in Nashville.

little gifts of candy from the Chinese New Year Banquet

There is such a heart felt, soulfulness about food in Chinese people. The proper greeting in China is "Sic faun ma?" or "Have you eaten?" not hi, how are you, etc. It is about making sure your friends and loved ones have the nourishment to go on with their day, and if they need nutritious and delicioius food, provide it. It is deep and meaningful when Chinese people will share their food with another. It is deep and meaningful to be invited to a Chinese person's home to have food. When guest come, it is customary to serve the finest and rarest foods for the guest to eat, and the guest is always encouraged to take the first pick and best pick of the lot. It is a bit Bhuddist in custom. Food and the meaning behind it runs deep in symbolism and in the hearts of Chinese people. There is no such thing as extending an invitation for dinner, and then serving unhealthy or souless meals. It is always about honoring the guests and the food.

I have gone to all 4 of the Chinese Banquets Jen-Jen has offered to Nashville. This year, it was record numbers of about 250 people. That is fantastic! I know that she puts in a lot off effort with the Chef from Golden Coast to present an impressive and delicious 10-course meal for all of us. Every year, the Chinese Banquet makes me feel connected with people who honor the Chinese culture and food, and I feel connected with the people of China and Asia who have celebrated in the New Year in their own way. I feel the hopes and dreams of Asian people, and myself, for a good new year filled with peace, health, happiness and prosperity. I also feel the renewal of my existence, and shutting the book on the former year, and letting go of any difficulty that happened during the previous year. For these, I am forever grateful to Jen-Jen and the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville to offer the Chinese Banquet to remind of how fortunate I am.

the menu

black mushroom and chicken soup, tasty!

squid, beef, dumplings and dried tofu roll

scallops, wow, there are a lot of scallops, yum!

pork and rice sticks.
I really liked the thick rice stick noodle, like mochi.

pork spareribs were deep fried and just salty enough.

happy family - celery, dried shitake, squid.
I really love dried shitake mushrooms. Drying the mushrooms seem to enhance the flavor, and then rehydrating them allows the cooking liquid to be just as flavorful.

sesame chicken

baby bok choy and dried shitake mushrooms.
Oh my goodness, more dried shitake mushrooms! I love it! I made this exact dish for New Year's Eve!

shrimp, yummy again!

This dish should have been a whole fish and left to the table to cut up the fish. I think that they pre-cut the fish because of so many non-Chinese people not used to seeing a whole fish on the table. With having the fish cut up already, I do think people at more of it.

sweet red bean soup
I am not a big fan of this warm sweet bean soup, but it is ok. I did eat about 1/2 of my bowl so I could invite good luck and joy into my Chinese New Year of the Pig.

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February 21, 2007

Chinese New Year's Eve

Since I had reservations at the Annual Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville Chinese New Year's Banquet on Sunday, I never thought about what I was going to eat on New Year's Eve. So, Saturday 4 pm rolled around and I decided that I should consider going grocery shopping. I ended up at Wang's Enterprises at 401 3rd Ave North, an Asian market that closes at 5 pm. Wang's has a lot of frozen and pantry items, and only one small cold case of fresh refrigerated foods. This place is great for Chinese Ingredients! I actually think Wang's Enterprises is the best for Chinese ingredients, than any other multi-ethnic or Asian market in Nashville. Anyway, I had one hour to figure out what I was going to make for my homemade Chinese dinner. I got bok choy, dried shitake mushrooms (dung goo), a roasted duck, veggie dumplings, and glutinous rice dumplings (jung). As for making Chinese food for special occasions at my house, I like the Sandra Lee method - Semi-Homemade. I can bake, steam and assemble Chinese food, as long as I can the good stuff from a good Asian market.

I went to the USA grocery to get small flour tortillas, cucumbers and scallions. I chopped them up to serve with the duck.
This is a photograph of my roasted duck breast. Yummy! I know you just want to reach right into the computer right now and take a bite! I do!

I don't know how to make crepes, or the soft steamed buns for Peking Duck Rolls, so I used the tortillas to make the rolls. I totally cheated with heating the tortillas. I put a few on a plate, covered with a damp paper towel, then I microwaved the tortillas! Is that completely cheating or what! I cut up duck, duck skin, cucumber and scallions and put the ingredients in the flour tortilla with a little hoisin, and ate a semi-homemade Duck Roll. It was really good! I still have some duck, cucumber, scallions and tortillas. I will have to make more!

The moment I got home, I started soaking the dried mushrooms. When I was ready to cook them, I put the bok choy, soaked shitake mushrooms, chicken stock, oyster sauce and a little soy sauce in a big dutch oven on the stove. I turned up the heat to high, when it started to boil, I turned it down to a simmer, covered the pot to let all the flavors steam. It was yummy!

What would New Year's be without dumplings? I got the veggie filled kind from the freezer section. I could have made them myself, but that would have taken too much time that I did not have after waiting to the last minute to cook. The veggie dumplings are good enjoy, none bursted open while I steamed them, and I hope that these dumplings bring me prosperity for the new year.
Because I was trying to stick to semi-homemade, I decided to use ponzu (lemon soy sauce) for the dumplings. Luckily every Asian market carries ponzu, so all I had to do was open a bottle, pour it into my dish and then I was done. I did not even have to squeeze a lemon! Next year, if I can remember, I will make my own ponzu.
And lastly, my glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf. I steamed this frozen little gem too. I don't know how to make it. The frozen one is good enough for my household, and it fits right into my semi-homemade theme of this Chinese New Year's eve dinner.

Here is the glutinous rice. It is just full of chopped meat and gravy inside. It is just a treat!

Happy New Year!

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February 17, 2007

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! The above writing means: I wish peace and serenity to all families all over the world. My Chinese teacher at the Chinese Tea Party hand painted the above wish for the world. This type of red banner with a Chinese New Year wish is usually glued onto the the front door, or on the wall next to the front door of the home, and is left there all year long. Since my blog is a virtual front door for me, I am pasting up the lovely banner at the top of this blog entry at the beginning of the Chinese New Year!

While you are here, please take a lucky package! In side, there is money for a wish of prosperity, candy for abundance, and a dried plum for good health.

And of course, have an orange too! It is a symbol of good luck for the Chinese New Year!

Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous Chinese New Year 4705, the Year of the Golden Boar!

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Peanut Butter

So, ConAgra Foods got salmonella (animal based) in a butt load of peanut butter (veggie based). How in the heck did that happen? Did someone get poop in the peanut butter?

Here it is, the salmonella tainted Peter Pan (eaten by Matt), and my guilty pleasure, Skippy Crunchy (without the special ingredient Salmonella). Peter Pan is the bacteria ridden jar. Get that Peter Pan jar out of my pantry!

The 2111 series is the bad stuff that is making people sick. As all good urban legends go, I heard from a friend of a friend, that she has a friend who knows someone with a toddler that has been in the hospital since August for some unknown illness that is causing the toddler to vomit, have diarrhea, and have gut pain. They were feeding the toddler Peter Pan all this time. They think the mystery illness is Salmonella, and none of the doctor's called for a test to look for Salmonella in the toddler's poop. Whatever, is there really a toddler?

So, by the time the recall of Peter Pan happened, Matt ate this much of his tainted jar.

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February 16, 2007

Class Goes Full Circle

OMG! I am so lucky! I got this email from the manager of Radius 10, and it said that Chef Jason Brumm, and sous chef were offering cooking class every Saturday! I waited a day or 2 and then I emailed back to sign up for the Feb 10th class. I was rejected, it was full. I was so bummed out, but I emailed back and asked to be wait-listed, and I was going to wait until March to try again. To my surprise, the manager fit me into A NEW CLASS on Feb 3! I was so lucky! I got to go to the inaugural, first, initial class starring THE AMAZING SPECIAL Dish of KOBE BEEF and Chef Jason's GRITS TO DIE FOR! OMG! Did I say OMG? Yeah, that is an understatement. Really folks, if you recall my last post about Radius 10, and how I felt like Sabrina, well, this was like being Sabrina and then being invited to Martha's Vineyard for real, not just a ploy by Linus! I jumped for joy! What was I going to wear? What was the perfect set of earrings? Did my pen have enough ink? Was the battery in my digi-camera charged up?

Here is the menu. Sounds simple enough... salad, beef, grits, and a chocolate cake. Well, OMG, it was so fantastic!

Chef Jason has the same philosophy about salads as I do. I like a dressing, but just enough to barely coat the lettuce, and to let the salad greens flavor come through. The Radius 10 house dressing is a Greek lemon-ette (no vinegar so it is not a vinagrette) that is light, fresh and yummy! Sous Chef topped the salad with a a little goat cheese, but not too much, so the balance was right on. The salad is simple, straight forward, and perfect.

On to the main course. Chef Jason is showing me the beautiful marbling of the Kobe Beef short rib. This one has been deboned, but I think that I would like to try to make the dish with bone in, as I am a firm believer that meat with bone has an enhanced flavor.

In the demonstration, the Kobe Beef is browned on both sides. I learned that the reason why things stick to a pan, or not brown is that there is not enough heat. Turn it up and the item will release from the pan. It is true, I tried it! After browning, a mirepoix, stock and wine was added to deglaze, and the herb and spice base to the dish is orange peel, cinnamon, and star anise. All this goodness goes into a big dutch oven in the oven for hours as a braise. The liquid in the dutch oven reduces down to make a very flavorful sauce for the dish.

The grits, OMG! I had these grits about a year ago at an art opening, and I could not forget them. They were just TOO GOOD! I mean, I kept eating them. The next day I ran out and bought grits, polenta, masa, and corn, trying to figure out how Chef Jason made his grits, but to no avail. NOW, after the class, I KNOW! OMG! I haven't made them yet at home because, well, how do I say this, there may be a few fat grams involved. So, as you can see in the above picture, there base for the grits is cream (full 100% fatted cream) and butter. Once the grits are cooked, Chef Jason finishes off the grits with a little grated truffles right before serving. OMG! I cannot get enough of these grits! Chef Jason's GRITS ARE THE GOLD STANDARD of all GRITS! Holy Mackerel.

Here is a photo o f the finished dish. Kobe Beef shortribs on a bed of grits, and topped with an onion compote. The sauce was so flavorful, blended and condensed, that it just took on a life of it's own. I could not tell the indiviual ingredients in the sauce because the whole was greater than its parts.

This dessert recipe is brilliant. It has eggs, butter, flour and 70% chocolate in it. The batter can be made up 1 or 2 days ahead of time, then, when ready to bake, just pour some batter in ramekins while your guests are saying great dinner and I want some decaf. And *poof*, 6 minutes later, there are individual warm moltony chocolate cake for everyone to enjoy.

When I got there, I had plans to jog after the class. Well, that all went to the wayside, and I went home for a nap.

I cannot take another class until May. boo-hoo for me. BUT, you know that when I get another email in April for May classes, I am so IN! I am emailing that instant to take another calls with Chef Jason, and learn the secrets of his food.

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February 11, 2007

Chicken Soup Solves Everything

It has been winter in Nashville for about 3 weeks. Yes, you read that correctly, it has only been wintery weather here for 3 weeks. Before that, it was autumny, perfect weather outside for exercise, and there were even a couple mosquitoes still flying around. Oh, what a short 3 weeks will do to the memory, as we sit here complaining about how cold it is outside. Of course, since I live in the south USA, it really isn't that cold, and we are leaving the house without hats, scarves, gloves or socks! We are just not used to 30F weather anymore.

Anyway, to solve the cold weather blues, I made some chicken soup. I had chicken bones in the freezer from a roasted chicken I made a few weeks ago, and I brought that out for the stock. I made the stock fairly traditionally with onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, garlic, a pinch salt, pepper, and some dried thyme that I saved from my organic herb garden back in October. I don't have butchers twine, so I did not tie up my thyme. As per usual, while we ate the soup, we had to pull out the thyme twigs that I was unable to remove during cooking. I don't want to use anything to tie up herbs besides clean, no-chemical string because I have visions of my soup turning chemically blue like in the Bridgett Jones movie.

We love mushrooms, so I added a quart of sliced creminis in the soup. To give the soup some teeth, I added a couple handfuls of barley. I love beef barley soup, so why not make chicken barley soup? I also added fresh diced carrots, celery, onions and chicken to the soup.

Here is my cup of chicken soup. At the very top of the cup you can see a thyme leaf stuck to the rim. Isn't it amazing how that mostly water pot turned into an almost creamy hearty soup? The soup was yummy, and exactly what a cold winter day called for.

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February 10, 2007

Blueberry Pancakes

My blueberry picking addiction started back in July, and went straight through to September. In September I put up about 12 cups of blueberries in the freezer. I have made whole wheat blueberry muffins, I have eaten handfuls of frozen blueberries, and I have tossed a few berries on my granola. The other weekend, I asked Matt what he wanted for breakfast or lunch as it was a lazy 10:30 am, and we were moving a bit slowly. I heard him say "pancakes, I want to go to pancake's house." Ok, so, um, we were not going to pancake's house as that would in in North Dakota in winter.
So, I made some blueberry pancakes. I was surprised to have all the ingredients in the house! I usually am down 1 or 2 ingredients, but it was our lucky Saturday! Here it is, it makes 10, 3-4 inch pancakes enough for 4 people
1/2 c white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1T olive or canola oil
1T maple syrup (the real stuff folks, not that chemical fake stuff)
1C club soda (or beer, but it was a bit early for beer)
A bunch of blueberries in each pancake

We each ate 2, as the whole wheat and blueberry portions of the pancake are really sustaining. We put a little real butter and little Trader Joe's Grade B Maple Syrup on the pancakes to eat them. Anyone out there who knows me, and happens to live near a Trader Joe's, and happens to have a giving spirit... I am down to about 4 oz of my 32 oz Trader Joe's Grade B (B as in BOY) Maple Syrup. There is no way to get good maple syrup here. I have been cooking with my TJ maple syrup sparingly because every drop is precious. I miss real maple syrup because I was so used to it when I lived up in Massachusetts. In MA, we could just jump in the car and drive north to New Hampshire or Vermont and get the real deal! Now, I live in the land of some corporate chemical syrup that makes your body cringe when you eat it. Back to the point, there is NOT one Trader Joe's anywhere in Tennessee, and there is NOT one in 150 miles in any direction. *sigh* with a bit of sound of an ugh in it. Someone help me, send me some real GRADE B maple syrup!

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February 4, 2007

Good Times Marche's In

the special board (but all food here is special!)

Welcome Margot's second venture! Really WELCOME! Where have you been all my life?! This is as close to a French country bisto while still being in Nashville! Everything about this place is excellent: excellent ingredients, excellent prepartion, excellent beverages, excellent rustic cabinets, excellent marble top bistro tables, excellent bistro chairs and excellent Margot chef/owner.

My trip started with sitting at this lovely bistro table next to a very bright sunny window. On Sunday, there brunch menu includes quiche, omeletes, crepes, steel cut oatmeal, bacon, eggs, fruit, cheese, breads with a variety of spreads, salads, soup and a wide variety of beverages from espresso to wine. The lunch menu includes salads, cheese plates, soup, sandwiches, etc that you would hope to find in a French bistro.

When I was at Marche's for lunch, I opted for a simple green salad lightly dressed, and a vegetable tartine. The tartine is an open faced sandwich on a thick piece of tuscan bread that is lightly toasted, with wilted swiss chard, roasted fresh beets, melty goat cheese, walnuts and olive oil. This meal was so hearty, that I did not miss eating meat with my meal. I loved this sandwich! I was so inspired by Marche's, that I went to the store a bought beets, daikon, carrot, turnip, parsnip, yam, and an onion. I diced them up, tossed with excellent olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. I roasted these root veggies at 500 for about 25 minutes, turning once. Thanks Margot for reminding me about root veggies.

The desserts are simple and yummy. We got a lemon tart that was enough for 2 people. It was so good! It was lemony, and tart. I really liked it. I really think that I want to eat here a lot more often because the menu is inspiring for me to cook at home. The best part about Marche's is that they sell specialty ingredients, and have a meat counter with cured and fresh meats. The meat manager said that she would order anything that I would want, and get it in fresh for me at no extra cost. That is fantastic!

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